Why We’re Okay With (some) Magic In Our Reading

vintage books and imaginationSomebody asked me if I’d ever articulated our position on why we’re okay with magic in some of our entertainment.  That was a good question.

This was my not so great answer, because I can’t say that we’ve ever sat down and hammered out any kind of a policy on it, and my husband, by and large, has mainly left the decision entirely up to me.

So, I don’t remember that I have ever written in detail about it, and I don’t know if I can articulate it, and I couldn’t find an previous posts (that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, just that I didn’t come up with good search terms).
Have you read G. K. Chesterton on fairy tales? http://www.orthocuban.com/2009/12/g-k-chesterton-on-fairy-tales/  Chesterton has definitely influenced my thinking:
“Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Thinking further on keyboard (I often do not know what I think about something until I start typing it out):
  • I do not indiscriminately allow all magic.
  • I allow it if it’s clearly fantasy/fairy tale.
  • Except I don’t do vampire stories at all.  Mainly this is because I have a lot of issues with that first really popular vampire series and they have little to do with the vampires/occult and everything to do with giving girls entirely the wrong idea about romance and putting themselves at risk and just, ugh.  I don’t like this kind of thing for my girls at all.
  • I don’t care for stories where normal human children in normal earthly settings can learn and practice spells. Harry Potter we allow, for instance, because you are born with magic or you are not- there is no amount of learning that will help you become a witch. The magic is just an extra talent, and it tends to be quite specific to the person, like a talent at skating, dancing, writing, etc . So we allowed Potter.  However, I cannot deny that perhaps the biggest reason we permitted Potter in the first place was Dame Maggie Smith playing Professor Minerva McGonagall in the movies.
  • I’m not presenting these as correct standards for others, just sharing some of my own standards, if standards is even the right word for it.
Do you screen all your kids’ books?
I screened my kids reading material until they got to their very early teens, and then I slowly backed off- how long I screened was based on the kid (and sometimes based on the kid’s own preferences- one of them wanted me to screen her books for much longer than I wanted to do it). Then sometimes we did another compromise, where I let them read, say, Ender’s Game; The Hunger Games; Harry Potter, for every so many reads of their choice, they had to read a set number of books of my choice in between. The numbers varied, based on the children. I did not need to do this with all of them.
I screened for writing style as much as for content and really tried hard to limit or even eliminate twaddle for the children.  I was trying to help form, shape, develop, and elevate their taste in literature so that shoddily written tripe would not be as satisfying to them as it sometimes is for me. I was more successful at this with the oldest four.
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  1. teachergirl
    Posted June 23, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m curious about the “stories where normal human children in normal earthly settings can learn and practice spells.” I can’t seems to think of any books that fit off the top of my head. What are some examples of these books?

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted June 23, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Well, or positively try to gain such skills- one from my youth was something like The Active Enzyme Teenage Witch. There’s just a line for me between fantasy and occult. And that line might be fuzzy.

      • Amity
        Posted June 24, 2014 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        There’s a scene in Swallowdale where Titty makes a voodoo doll. We love that series, but never read that scene without commenting on what a dangerous, foolish, and evil thing that was to do. Maybe along those lines?

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